Bush speaks on Capitol riots for first time: ‘It really disturbed me’

Bush says that social media is putting democracy at risk because of the capacity it has to spread misinformation

Former President George W. Bush has spoken out against the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and said the insurrection left him “disgusted.”

“I can’t remember what I was doing, but … I was sick to my stomach … to see our nation’s Capitol being stormed by hostile forces,” he told Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith. “And it really disturbed me to the point where I did put out a statement, and I’m still disturbed when I think about it.”

George W, Bush thegrio.com
U.S. President George W. Bush (C) speaks after signing the 2008 Economic Report during a ceremony in the Oval Office the White House in February 11, 2008 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Shawn ThewPool/Getty Images)

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“It undermines rule of law and the ability to express yourself in peaceful ways in the public square,” he added. “This was an expression that was not peaceful.”

Bush made the comments in February but the interview was first streamed Thursday as part of the virtual South By Southwest online festival. The 43rd commander-in-chief is currently promoting his new book “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” which will be released on April 20.

Bush, who served from 2001 to 2009, also weighed in on the claims that the 2020 presidential election, won by President Joe Biden, was stolen. He pushed back on the allegations of fraud made by former President Donald Trump and his allies.

“I think the election, all elections have some kind of improprieties,” he told Smith. “I think … the results of this election, though, were confirmed when Joe Biden got inaugurated as president.”

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Bush was more direct when asked directly if he believe the election was stolen.

“No,” the former Texas governor answered.

Bush also responded “No” when asked if he believed that the actions of the Trump administration put democracy at risk in the aftermath of the most recent election. He faulted social media instead.

Joe Biden Sworn In As 46th President Of The United States At U.S. Capitol Inauguration Ceremony
President Joe Biden talks with former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton after the 59th inaugural ceremony on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

“What’s putting democracy at risk is the capacity to get on the internet to spread … all kinds of stuff,” he said. “But checks and balances work. It’s a, you know, a balanced system. The courts work. The legislative process needs a little work, particularly on immigration reform … [but] No, I thought the system worked fine.”

Bush said that he was heartened by the voter turnout in the most recent elections. According to the Pew Research Center, 158.4M Americans cast ballots in November, an increase of 7% from the 2016 election.

“It shows the vibrancy of democracy,” he said. “That’s a telltale sign that people want to get engaged in the system and that they were willing to go vote.”

Celebrating America Primetime Special
President George W. Bush speaks during the Celebrating America Primetime Special on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Handout/Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images )

“Look, politics has always been rough … And right now we’re at a period of time, though, when there’s a lot of anger in the system, which then causes people to worry about the future of our democracy,” he said. “I think it’s going to eventually work its way out of the system.”

Bush claimed he released his book after the election cycle to avoid politicizing the matter even further. He hopes his book highlights the sacrifices of immigrants.

“If I’d have been a more of a selfish guy, I would have tried to get the book out before Christmas of last year in order to enhance sales,” he said. “But I wanted to avoid the election season because one of the problems is immigration has become overly politicized, and it’s really a rebuke of Congress’ inability to come together to get something done on immigration.”

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